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Monday 27 July 2015

On Madeira

After a week of drinking Madeira, I find myself thinking about this sub-tropical island's fortified wine (and wine in general) quite differently.

- it has the Classic Wine qualities of tasting strong, important and characterful

- it evokes a time when a physical presence, measured by both size and character, was the mark of one's importance

- it has a pre-industrial, pre-middle-class, agricultural physicality, with a rocky, untamed, southern-European intensity

- it matches best with the strong, peasanty foods of this sunburnt, windswept Atlantic isle; olives and strong cheeses, tuna steaks and meat skewers

- by comparison, modern-style fruit-forward wines seem lacking and insubstantial; it is a suit of armour next to business casual, Henry VIII vs Steve Jobs, a stallion beside a smartphone.
It is so tied up with its sense of place that I can barely imagine drinking it back in the UK, except on a hot summer's eve with the doors to the garden flung open.

Madeira once occupied the place now held by Champagne - the wine of kings and conquest, of celebrations and ceremonies, it marked victories and launched ships. That world has now largely disappeared and, with it, Madeira's ubiquity.

The Parker-Point chasing of big ripeness and intense concentration appears like a misguided attempt to imbue the essence of fortified wines into table wines.

Other related articles
Terras do Avo
On Sherry's Image
On Champagne's Image

Thanks to MW student Daniela Shelton for the main image, borrowed from her excellent article on Madeira: https://danigongoozler.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/if-you-like-bottled-electricity-you-will-like-madeira-rui-falcao/

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